New generation lines up to take over party leadership
Ray Cheung in Washington
More than 60pc of cadres expected to resign at congress
The Communist Party's leadership is likely to see a major generational reshuffle with more than 60 per cent of members likely to step down during its 17th congress in Beijing this autumn, according to a leading scholar of elite Chinese politics.
'There will be large-scale changes in the top leadership with a landslide takeover by younger leaders,' Li Cheng, a professor at Hamilton College and visiting fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, told a conference at the Woodrow Wilson Centre on Wednesday.
Professor Li, commenting at a forum on the Chinese Communist Party, believed many officials in their 50s, commonly referred to as the fifth generation of Chinese leaders, were likely to gain powerful positions throughout the party hierarchy, including its Standing Committee, at the congress, which is held every five years.
Professor Li's assessment, which was made ahead of the ministerial appointments to be announced today at a session of the National People's Congress's Standing Committee, is based on the turnover rates of previous party congresses and the average ages of leaders.
He pointed out that 2002's 16th Party Congress saw a turnover rate of 61 per cent in party positions and that the average ages of members of the Standing Committee, Politburo, and Secretariat of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party were now 67, 66, and 65, respectively. As a result of their advanced age, many are expected to retire.
Although President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao will serve another five-year term in the Politburo, Professor Li surmised that at least four members of the Standing Committee - Luo Gan , 72, Huang Ju, 69, Wu Guanzheng, 69, and Jia Qinglin, 67 - would step down.
'It should come as no surprise if there are many new younger members in the Standing Committee,' he said with many of the new senior younger leaders likely to come from the Communist Youth League, the power of base of Mr Hu.
Potential candidates include Li Keqiang, party secretary of Liaoning province, Li Yuanchao, party secretary of Jiangsu province , and Wang Yang, party secretary of Chongqing municipality .
Bruce Dickson, a professor at George Washington University, said the Communist Party's active recruitment of wealthy entrepreneurs was part of an effort to co-opt potential political challenges from the business community.
Nevertheless, he said the effort was posing a public relations dilemma for the party, particularly for Mr Hu and Mr Wen, who were trying to convey a more populist image under their 'harmonious society' policy.
Sun Yan, a professor at City University of New York, said corruption within the Communist Party was becoming more rampant among younger officials, who had university degrees and whose average age was 35. 'This trend with the younger cadres may be because they think they are smarter and that they can out-wit the system,' Professor Sun said.
Swaps at the top
1940: born in Shandong
1964: graduated from Peking University
1985-1990: spokesman of Foreign Ministry
1990-1993: assistant foreign minister
1995-1998: vice-foreign minister
2001-2003: vice-foreign minister
2003-2007: foreign minister
1950: born in Shanghai
1990-1993: counsellor and director, then deputy director-general at the Foreign Ministry
1993-1995: envoy to Chinese embassy in Washington
1995-1998: assistant foreign minister
1998-2001: vice-foreign minister
2001-2005: Chinese ambassador to US
2005-present: vice-foreign minister
Minister of water resources
1941: born in Jiangsu
1984-1987: deputy secretary of party committee and deputy general manager of Water Resources and Power Generation Corp under former Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity
1988-1993: director of department of hydro power development in former Ministry of Energy
1993-1997: vice-minister of former Ministry of Electric Power
1998-2007: minister of water resources
1954: born in Beijing
1995-1996: executive deputy director of comprehensive development management centre at the Ministry of Water Resources
1996-2000: director-general of rural water conservancy department at Ministry of Water Resources
2001-2005: vice-minister of water resources
Minister of science and technology
1941: born in Shanghai
1964-1992: researcher and director of Chinese Academy of Forestry
1993-1995: vice-president of Chinese Academy of Sciences
2001-2007: minister of science and technology
1991-2002: manager of Audi Corp
2002-2004: assistant president and then vice-president of Tongji University
2004-present: president of Tongji University
Minister of land and resources
1942: born in Shandong
1983-1984: party secretary of Zhuzhou, Hunan
1989-1993: deputy party secretary of Hunan
1994-1998: Shanxi governor
1999-2003: vice-minister of land and resources
2003-2007: minister of land and resources
2001-present: deputy secretary-general of State Council